Mother Nature as Muse: The Future of DesignNature Thursday, April 12th, 2012
(ThomasNet) Nature-based designs are used not only for creating products, but solving challenges in business and society. This technique, known as biomimicry, is reshaping the way we think about innovation and creative problem-solving. Here we look at biomimicry’s underlying principles, how it can be harnessed to improve companies and successful examples of nature-based design.
While there are many types of man-made products and processes that incorporate concepts originally found in nature — across industries ranging from robotics to materials — nature-based design (commonly known as biomimicry or biomimetics) can extend into myriad other applications. Researchers and businesses are actively tapping into biomimicry to improve their approach to addressing long-standing problems.
“Biomimicry looks to nature and natural systems for inspiration. After millions of years of tinkering, Mother Nature has worked out some effective processes,” sustainability blog Mother Nature Network notes. “In nature, there is no such thing as waste — anything left over from one animal or plant is food for another species. Inefficiency doesn’t last long in nature, and human engineers and designers often look there for solutions to modern problems.”
Energy is one of the key areas where biomimicry principles are being applied. In light of rising global energy consumption and challenges in generating electricity from sustainable sources, some scientists have started looking to organic methods of energy production. For example, researchers at MIT last year developed the first artificial leaf, a synthetic silicon device that mimics the process of photosynthesis by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen that can be harnessed for fuel cells.
The artificial leaf is wireless and composed of abundant, inexpensive materials, including silicon, cobalt and nickel. It’s intended to create a cheap and reliable source of electricity to power buildings and facilities — leveraging natural principles into an energy solution.
“With its 4.5-billion-year head start on mankind, the natural world has developed some clever mechanisms for solving big problems, and that natural cleverness isn’t just informing new ways to generate energy,” Popular Science explains. “It’s slowly but surely informing everything from the way emergency rooms are designed to how data networks communicate. It asks that electricity grids act like bees and businesses manage resources like coral reefs manage calories.”
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